The best new year: can you raise your ebenezer?

As this year ends, healthy people look backwards. And forward.

The Bible often uses a word when it looks back. The word is hennah in Hebrew, and it means “until now” or “to this point” or “thus far.” For example, the Prophet Samuel looks back as he sets up a rock as a reminder:

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer (The Stone of the Help), saying, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.”                         – 1 Sam 7:1, NIV
The word hennah looks backwards on God’s faithfulness. It remembers that God has helped us in our lives this year. “To this point” speaks of both place and time. Here and now. It is an accounting of how present God has been in our world. A question: looking back, are you thankful for 2016? Did you gain something? Learn anything?  Overcome something? Visit any place? Love anyone? Was God present?
Grammatically, hennah also looks forward, containing a subtle expectation of continuation. God will continue to be with us and even go ahead of us to prepare the way. He is with us, both behind us and before us. As Catholic Mystic Von Hugel noted, “God is always previous.” The Apostle Paul writes, “For in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

In every breath of our lungs or print of our shoe, God was there first/God is here now/God is already ahead of us.

What will God do this next year? What will we see together? Who will I meet? How will those I love grow? Where will I make a difference, with his help?
I love the expectation in Charles Spurgeon’s words:
When a man reaches a certain point and writes “until now,” he is not yet at the end; he still has a distance to go. More trials, more joys; more temptations, more triumphs; more prayers, more answers; more toils, more strength; more fights, more victories…Be of good courage, and with grateful confidence raise your banner!
We sing of this backwards and forward faith in the old hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (Robert Robinson, 1757):
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I’m come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

As one year ends and another begins, reflect. Look backwards. And forwards.


Lord, even if I missed it

you were in always my eyes,

you were always in my mind,

you were always in my hands,

you were always in my words.

This new year, help me to not be afraid to walk into darkness,

for You are uncreated Light.

Show me the light,

show me the right seat,

find me the fitting task,

give me the willing heart.

(Adapted from Aidan Readings, Celtic Daily Prayer)

                                                                              Photos above by Aaron Birch and Greg Rakozy

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